We’ve seen variations on this image all over the place.
The Elfstedetocht is the ‘Eleven Cities Race’. It started as an organized event in 1909, but there are references to it from 1760. The route is along the frozen canals, beginning in Leeuwarden and visiting Sneek, IJlist, Sloten, Stavorun, Hinderloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker, Dokkum, then back to Leeuwarden. The ice needs to be 6 inches thick along the entire route so understandably, it doesn’t happen every year. The last ice race was in 1997.
As it’s a rare occurrence, when they think it’s going to happen, everyone gets very excited. We’ve noticed that the Netherlanders are a people who love festivals, competitions and generally getting together and having fun.
At ferry ports, the families who get out of their vehicles and play ball games in the car park are… you guessed, from The NL. What a fantastic attitude to life and having fun. We sit in the car, feeling gloomy because we can’t board the ferry just yet.
So they don’t miss an opportunity for excitement, there are two other variants of the Elfstedentocht. The first is the bike race: same route as above, but on bikes. We were fortunate enough to witness the start of the third variant. The rowing boat race.
We were just finishing dinner, when a man asked if it was OK for some people to get in and out of rowing boats next to us. They were installing the first crews for this race. They row throughout the night, swapping the crews every few hours. Each crew was announced over the PA as they started, there was some reference to royalty being present in the crowd -and the boats set off, accompanied by cheering, shouting and general exuberance.
In what other ways do they race around the Eleven Cities? Perhaps we’ll find out.